Psychologists say that the first impression is very important when we meet new people. Job interviews, social gatherings, neighborhood meetings are just a few examples of places where we come into contact with people who might have a significant impact on our lives. What about strangers we meet in the streets every day? Do we need to greet them or smile at them or in any other way acknowledge them?
Traditionally, people in small towns and villages all know each other and they say “Hi” or some other greeting when they meet, but residents of big cities just rush past each other paying little or no attention to strangers around.
It makes total sense to me! When you have the time and you personally know the people, you greet them; when you are in a hurry and everybody around you is a stranger, you would never get to work if you were to stop and greet every person on your way there. What doesn’t make sense is when people in two cities or towns with about the same size population behave very differently in this respect: in one of them you get a smile and a greeting, in another one you get a surprised look when you try greeting a stranger.
In the U.S. every town is a community with its own culture, and it may be quite different from the culture of another town just 20 miles down the freeway. It reminds me of the variety of microclimates in the San Francisco Bay Area: two towns 30 miles apart could have a very different weather on the same day: hot and dry in one, and cool and rainy in another.
What is the difference in attitudes though? Sometimes it can be explained by snobbishness: wealthier towns tend to display less hospitality. Other times the difference might be explained by the ethnic makeup of the population: some immigrant cultures are more sociable than others. Luckily, my town is pretty friendly. Most people on the trail where I ride my bike usually smile and greet me when I pass them. And I really love that! I feel like I’m part of the “trail community” and it gives me a sense of belonging and harmony. Even when I meet another biker, and the time we have to interact is just a split second, we still greet each other. The greeting might be just a nod, or even an acknowledging semi-smile, but it’s there and I can see it! It makes my day.
And what about your town, city, or trail? How do people greet you there? Please share.